Forty-six African penguins were returned to the wild recently after being rescued from Bird Island in Addo Elephant National Park. The penguins were released back to the sea in excellent condition following months of rehabilitation in two centres in the Eastern Cape.
Penguins Eastern Cape in Cape St Francis released thirty-six penguins while the South African Marine Rehabilitation Centre (SAMREC) released ten penguins back to sea. It is expected that the penguins will make their way back to colonies on Bird and St Croix Island in Algoa Bay as they have done in the past.
The juvenile penguins were rescued by helicopter off Bird Island in early June when it was found that they were underweight and suffering from exposure to extreme weather. Treatment and feeding in specialised rehabilitation centres was the only way to ensure their survival.
South African National Parks (SANParks) took the decision to airlift the birds to rehabilitation centres as part of the strategy to take special measures to ensure the survival of individuals where a species is endangered. African penguins were reclassified as endangered in 2010 following the global decline of their population.
Addo Elephant National Park rangers have introduced special measures to increase the survival of penguin chicks on the islands including monitoring the birds on a daily basis, providing artificial nest covers to shelter eggs and chicks from harsh weather and predators and removing penguins to specialised rehabilitation centres when needed.
The Algoa Bay islands managed by SANParks are now home to the world’s largest African penguin populations with 6 625 breeding pairs on St Croix Island and 3031 breeding pairs on Bird Island.
The photo above shows the juvenile penguins beginning their swim back home to Bird Island after being rehabilitated.